Lawrason’s Take on Vintages October 12 Release

Napa Cabs, Aussie Stars, Nifty $14 Whites, Faiveley Burgundies, WinerytoHome Goes National

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

There is another monumental release at VINTAGES on Saturday, October 12, and given the number of wines offered (137) and the number of wines being purchased for Thanksgiving, I expect the stores to be plugged this weekend. And it won’t help that collectors will be scrambling for expensive, big name Napa cabernets, plus fine Burgundies and Barolos (highlighted last week by colleague John Szabo) and excellent Aussie reds. Although I was not universally blown away by the 125 wines I tasted, there are some excellent buys in the many nooks and crannies of the wine world, so take some time to browse all my reviews here.

Cab Lover’s Napa Cabs

I look forward to seeing some WineAligners on October 21 when I host the evening consumer seminar at Napa Valley Rocks by the Napa Valley Vintners Association. Called “The Taste of Time” the winemakers’ seminar will examine the aging ability of Napa cabs, and I will say right of the bat – then and now – that Napa cabs certainly do have the ability to age. They are, after all, cabernets. The real questions I hope to answer are a) “do you need to age them at all to enjoy them?” and b) how long will they age if you do decide to cellar them?”

I have a fairly traditional perspective on this grape – a Bordeaux framework if you will. I like ‘em fragrant, terse and firm, and I don’t at all mind some herbal/tobacco-like nuance. To me this defines cabernet, and if I want smooth, ripe, mellow reds I’ll go to shiraz or merlot. So with that in mind, here are my three stand out Napa cabs on this release, price be damned. In themselves they are a fine little vertical tasting of three vintages, 2010, 2007 and 2005

Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2007Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 2005Philip Togni 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($137.95) – The Togni family produces about 2000 cases of cabernet from a vineyard on Spring Mountain that was planted in 1981 then replanted soon after.  Bordeaux runs in the family veins. Philip studied in Bordeaux under Emile Peynaud and worked at Chateau Lascombes. Daughter Lisa has done harvests at Chateau Leoville Barton. Their very classy 2010 is all about restraint and refinement and complexity.

Heitz Cellar 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($83.95) – Founded in 1961 when Napa only had eleven wineries Joe Heitz quickly became a cabernet legend when he released Martha’s Vineyard in 1966, Napa’s first vineyard designated cabernet. This is not the “Marthas” – just the regular fantastic Napa Valley floor cabernet, in a style that has always stayed more true to the Bordeaux model than most in the Valley, and this now maturing 2007 is a classic.

Corison 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($113.95) – Cathy Corison’s beloved Kronos Vineyard on benchlands between Rutherford and St. Helena has been growing great cabernet for over 40 years. This 2005 is from a cooler vintage that allowed almost an extra month of ‘hang time’ that encouraged more complex flavour development, and perhaps contributed to the wonderful sense of Bordeaux-like tension in this wine.

Four 91+ Aussie Reds

If Napa cabernet is out of your snack bracket you might want to dabble in more affordable Australian cabernets and shiraz. There are four very much worth your attention that I have scored 91 points or better.

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Wynns 2010 Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, $27.95 is a real bargain at this price. I have talked before of the re-thinking and re-tooling of Wynn’s historic Coonawarra vineyards and winery since Sue Hodder took over as winemaker, and Treasury Estates funded the changes she and master viticulturalist Allen Jenkins needed to make. The result is this very fine, layered and complete cabernet.

Penfolds Bin 407 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, $44.95. This was first developed in 1990 as a more affordable stablemate to the legendary Bin 707, which was likely named tongue in cheek after the Boeing aircraft. Little did originator John Duvall know that Ontario would one day name a freeway after his 407. Seriously, this is quite a racy, fragrant cabernet, within the solid, even-handed Penfolds style. It really defines an Aussie take on this variety.

Domaine Tournon Shay's Flat Vineyard Shiraz 2011Schild Estate Shiraz 2010Domaine Tournon 2011 Shay’s Flat Vineyard Shiraz, $35.95. This is a terrific, dense and vibrant biodynamically grown, single vineyard shiraz from Michel Chapoutier, the legendary winemaker of the Rhone Valley. It amazes me how much authentic northern Rhone character that his Pyrenees vineyards in Victoria can deliver. This has flavour components very much like Cornas, indeed you may want to purchase the excellent Alain Voge Cornas on this release to compare one day.

Schild Estate 2010 Shiraz Barossa, South Australia $24.95. The Schild family have been growing in Barossa since 1952, with an impressive spread of 450 acres. They made their first wine in 1998 and only opened their own winery in 2010. Which perhaps explains why I was surprised to find such fantastic quality and such a time-honoured Barossa approach to this beefy, very complex shiraz. I so often find “new labels” to be too gussied up and sweetish.

Nifty White Bargains at $13.95

Some of my favourite whites of this release are also among the cheapest. To me there is something elemental in the freshness and straightforwardness of white wines. They bare their character through fruit and soil expression. Sure, I like layers and complexity too, but it is so gratifying to find whites that deliver their core strength with great purity, without costing a lot.

Grand Classique Du Château De l'Orangerie 2011Angels Gate Riesling 2010William Fèvre Espino Chardonnay 2011William Fèvre 2011 Espino Chardonnay, Chile $13.95. William Fevre of Chablis knows all about delivering terroir and crispness in white wines, and I am delighted to see him pawing at the soil in Chile as well. This light, nicely refined barely oaked chardonnay comes from a new, high altitude site in upper Maipo, whereas most of Chile’s new wave whites are from the coast. It has been very gently whole bunched pressed with separation of the first and second press juice.

Angels Gate 2010 Riesling Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula $13.95. I have learned never to be surprised by Ontario’s Bench rieslings, or by the ability of winemaker Phillip Dowell to ferret out great structure in his wines. But I do continue to be surprised that wines like this can be had for $14. The depth and complexity and power of this dry, stony riesling far exceed its price.

Grand Classique 2011 Du Château De l’Orangerie Bordeaux Blanc $13.95. This is another intelligent “petit” white. Normally, white Bordeaux blends sauvignon, semillon and perhaps a touch of local muscadelle. And the price is $20 and up, even more if oak aged. By blending another lowly, but authorized local grape called colombard – that provides aromatic green apple fruit and juicy acidity – this property has delivered a great little white Bordeaux at a very fair price.

The Light and Dark Sides of Sherry

La Guita Manzanilla Osborne Pedro Ximenez 1827 Premium Sweet SherryFor as long as I have been writing about wine I have loved sherry in all its many incarnations. And for just as long sherry has been losing market share, and its proponents have been trying desperately to educate the world, on this fascinating if awkwardly complex product. The latest attempt was SherryFest October 10 in Toronto, an afternoon of trade and consumer tastings at the Gardiner Museum. If you didn’t attend you could give yourself a quick tutorial by forking out a paltry $32.50 to try half bottles of two brilliant examples that lie at the opposite ends of the sherry taste spectrum.

La Guita Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda ($14.95) is a pale, lighter, less aged, dry fino-style sherry made in the coastal town of Sanlucar. It is made to be enjoyed with a chill and works exceedingly well with anything salty and nutty. There is sense of searing intensity yet beguiling complexity.

Osborne Pedro Ximenez 1827 Premium Sweet Sherry, Jerez  ($17.95) pours almost black, with that ghostly yellow-green hue reserved for old wines. PX, as it’s known, is made from very sweet, raisined PX grapes. The wine is fortified and aged in barrel in a solera system. It’s a thick, sweet, velvety treacle that coats the palate and melts the mind with all its fragrances. Unbelievable!

Faiveley’s Burgundies

Faiveley Nuits Saint Georges 2010Domaine Favieley is now into its 7th generation with Erwan Faively at the helm since 2007. His investments in the vineyards and winemaking are paying off, because I am noting a real lift in quality and precision in style, especially with the recent 2010s (which was also a great vintage by the way) and first 2011s. The Faiveley 2010 Nuits-Saint-Georges ($53.95) on this release is a decent example, with great nerve and classic cool climate currant pinot fruit, if lacking only a little depth to hit 90 points. But I recently tasted a handful of other Faiveley red Burgundies that are passing through the LCBOs Classics Catalogue this autumn, and it’s an impressive array. Check out my reviews of 2011 Clos des Cortons, 2010 Nuits-St-Georges Les Porets Saint Georges, 2010 Beaune Clos d’Eclu and the hauntingly gorgeous, seamless 2010 Clos de Vougeots.

Winery to Home Set to offer Ontario Wine Across Canada

Since the fall 2003 I have been reviewing Ontario wine – along with colleague Tony Aspler – for an Ontario wine retailing website called Winery to Home, that until recently only delivered direct to customers in Ontario. In response to the federal sanctioning of shipping Canadian wine inter-provincially in June 2012, CEO Doug Towers made the decision to sell into B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia, provinces that have since declared their borders open. “We have been pleasantly surprised by the response,” said Towers, “and we continue to get requests from other provinces as well”. So this month he begins shipping to the ‘refusnik’ kingdoms: Alberta this month, then to Quebec, and then to all others by the end of the year.

According to Doug Towers, Winery to Home’s Wine of the Month Club is Canada’s fastest growing wine club. www.WineoftheMonth.ca offers 13 different “plans” with varying combinations of wines (some also include Ontario cheese). All the wines offered have been “expert approved” by Mr. Aspler and I – rating 87 or better. My reviews can be viewed by winery at www.winerytohome.com.

And that is it for this edition. Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast and the good wine that accompanies it!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Editors Note: You can find David’s reviews by clicking on any of the wine and links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines.

From the Oct 12, 2013 Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
All Reviews


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Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


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